PLANS OPPOSED

Ngong Forest ecolodge: Firm yet to submit crucial documents

Secure Homes has not provided KFS with EIA reports, operation plans and the architectural design of the facility.

In Summary

• The Kenya Forest Service chief conservator for forests Julius Kimani said Secure Homes, a real estate firm, received its special use licence on  July 19 2017.

• Conservationists are angry, warning that the project and the tourists it will attract could be disastrous for the fast-diminishing 3,000-acre forest.

Kenya Forest Service chief conservator for forests Julius Kimani Photo/Raphael Mwadime
Kenya Forest Service chief conservator for forests Julius Kimani Photo/Raphael Mwadime

The private investor seeking approval to put up a Sh80 million ecolodge inside Ngong Forest is yet to furnish authorities with crucial documents, the Star has learnt.

Yesterday, the Kenya Forest Service chief conservator for forests Julius Kimani said Secure Homes, a real estate firm, received its special use licence on  July 19 2017.

However, it has not provided KFS with Environmental Impact Assessment reports, operation plans and the architectural design of the facility.

"A special use license is conditional and one of the requirements they were supposed to do in six months period was to provide prerequisite legal documents," Kamau said.

Kamau spoke at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute during the inauguration of ten board members by Environment CS Keriako Tobiko. 

"It is part of the audit that we are doing as KFS to ensure there is strict compliance not only on that ecolodge but all the other 46 that we have," he said.

Kamau said the service is doing inspections to be able to ascertain the level of compliance.

The 20-acre mini-resort Secure Homes wants to put up will have 25 rooms, conference facilities for 100 guests, parking for 300 vehicles and a swimming pool.

Other facilities will include a gym, restaurant and bar, bandas on a field, an amphitheatre for outdoor functions and nature walks in the natural forest.

It will also provide hiking tracks and horseback riding excursions.  

Conservationists are angry, warning that the project and the tourists it will attract could be disastrous for the fast-diminishing 3,000-acre forest.

More development is likely to follow, they said.

Already the forest is being dismantled by developers and the government has been allocated pieces.

"We are all worried about further destruction of the already decreasing forests," one environmentalist said.

Secure Homes directors remain unknown.

“The license agreement is for 25 years from the date of execution and may be renewed for such further terms upon mutual agreement of both parties,” the  EIA report says.

Kefa Wamicwe was the lead expert who drafted the EIA report.

The EIA says Secure Homes limited was granted special use license after its bid was approved from a list of bidders who sought to put up 'eco-lodges' in the forest.

Construction will be in two phases. Phase 1 will cost Sh40 million for the restaurant, terrace, kitchen, conference room for 100 people, toilets and offices, the EIA says. There will be a tax-free shop and landscaping for events.

Phase 1 financing will come from a Sh35 million bank loan and Sh5 million own funds.

Construction will take a year and the facility will open immediately.

The forest is only six kilometres from Nairobi's CBD and is a vital water tower and wildlife sanctuary. 

The water tower plays an important role in  Kenya’s well-being. It could soon disappear if the Environment ministry does not intensify the war on land grabbing.

The forest is managed by the KFS and the Ngong Road Forest Association, a community forest association formed under the Forest Act of 2005.

The forest is divided by the Ngong Road into the Miotoni Section to the Northwest and the Racecourse and Kibera section to the Southeast.

The forest is known for a variety of wildlife such as buffaloes, wild pigs, porcupines, baboons, colobus monkeys, hyenas, dik-diks, giraffes, zebras, leopards and cheetahs.

It contains many amphibians, reptiles and birds and is a paradise for bird watchers.

Over the years, the forest has been encroached upon and more than half of its gazetted parcels eaten into.

The government has lost about 1,951 acres, leaving only 1,330.

KFS has been working with the National Land Commission to have the titles revoked and the parcels reverted.

“We’re at an advanced stage following up on revocation of the titles in Marmanet and Rumuruti, and all over the country where forests have been illegally grabbed,” former chief conservator Monica Kalenda said.

Ngong was gazetted as a reserve through a proclamation in 1932.

It was under 7,232 acres. In 1964, it was declared a central forest under a legal notice. Over the years, some parts were allotted. By 1978, the forest had only 3,282 acres.

The beneficiaries include Lenana School, Extelcoms, St Francis Anglican Church, PCEA Mugumoini Church and Langata Cemetery.

Others are The War Cemetry, Kenya Science Teachers College, Meteorological Department and the ASK Showground.

In 1996, a title deed for the remaining parcel was issued to the Treasury PS. He was to hold it on behalf of the Environment PS. This title excluded 840 acres.

In 1999, the title was surrendered to the commissioner of lands and a leasehold title deed for 1,330 acres issued to Treasury PS to keep for the Ngong Road Sanctuary. This left out 1,111.95 acres from the title issued in 1996.

In total, 1,951 acres are no longer within the boundaries of the gazetted Ngong Road Forest. The land excluded was illegally allocated to private developers. Some have been transferred to private companies.

The commissioner of lands allocated some 15 acres to a private developer, but the National Social Security Fund currently claims ownership.

Another 18 acres were allocated for extension of ASK showground (Jamhuri Park). Objections were raised.

Another 44 acres allocated to the ASK by the commissioner of lands were not authorised by the Forest department.